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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Journey to Solar – Part Seven – First Year Savings

Now that we’ve had our solar panels for over a year, we have a better picture of how much energy they will produce/offset during the various seasons and daylight hours throughout the year.

Solar City, our solar provider, makes it easy for customers to monitor and understand their energy generation through their Solar Guard monitoring service. I can go online anytime and see our panel’s energy generation…

…by year

OCGreenMama_Solarbyyear

…by month

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…or even by day

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Along with a running tally on the bottom of the screen, showing how much carbon dioxide we have offset with our system. To date, we have offset 16,599 pounds, the equivalent of 7.9 mature trees. I love that!

And while the carbon offset alone puts a smile on my face, what makes me smile even bigger are the savings, which I calculate at $3287.92 during the first year of our panels.

Here’s how I arrived at that number. The year prior to our solar panel installation, we paid $4956.49 to Southern California Edison. I know!! Can you see why we were very motivated to go solar?

Keep in mind, we did not have the roof space and elevation (this is all analyzed by Solar City’s engineering department – you don’t have to worry about this) to offset our entire energy bill. Solar City did make it clear that we would still have a bill from SCE each month. Some months the bill is almost nothing, and other months – like over the holidays with short days, Christmas lights and lots of parties – it’s higher.

All together, we paid $2203.37 to SCE during our first year of solar panels. However, this number needs some adjustment.

Our post-panel energy use is skewed higher because at the same time we installed our solar panels, we also added an electric car and charging station in our garage. This is not an energy expense that we had prior to installing our panels. All other things remaining constant, this should be backed out of our total energy expense to generate a true comparison.

Using a basic online calculator – which estimates that our car costs $.0382 per mile to charge in California – driving 14,000 mile in our first year – our car had an energy expense of $534.80.

Once you subtract this new, additional expense from our $2203.37, the total is $1668.57 in the first year with solar, as compared to $4956.49 in the year prior to going solar. Overall savings $3287.92!!

Not to complicate the numbers, but I think its worth mentioning that the $534.80 cost to drive 14,000 miles is a separate and additional savings. If you compare it to a car that gets 30 miles per gallon on average and gas cost of $4 per gallon, an equivalent gas-powered vehicle would have been $1866.67 to drive the same vehicle over the same time period.

If you do not back out the expense of charging the car, and instead you take $4956.49 paid to SCE and $1866.67 spent on gas, you get a grand total of $6823.15. Compare that to $2203.37 we paid for electricity in the first year (including cost of charging the car), that’s a savings of $4619.78.

Also, just as important to me as the savings, that is $4619.78 not spent on dirty, non-renewable, fossil fuels. Woo-hoo!!

Of course, our solar panels do have a cost. As I mentioned in previous posts, we chose Solar City’s pre-paid program, where we pre-paid our energy for the next twenty years. The total cost of our panels was $18,784 – total cost for all installation, warranty, maintenance, and energy generation for the next twenty years. We will never owe another dime for our solar energy. If you are interested in more about financing and paying for solar, I have lots more information in this post – Journey to Solar, Part Two, Financing.

So, our initial $18k investment will be paid back in five and half years with our current savings. Everything after that is pure money in our pocket. Keep in mind that is calculating no increase in utility rates during that time – which we know is never the case.  In fact, fossil-fuel energy prices rise by 39% on average over a ten-year period.

Our savings will begin to skyrocket over the next twenty years, as solar remains constant, SCE raises their rates year over year, and I continue to look at every nook and cranny of our house to find ways to reduce our energy consumption. I only wish I had a roof large enough for us to go 100% solar. If you do, do it. Do it now. Even if you only have room for a small system, the savings – in terms of the environment and cash in your pocket – makes it worth looking into for almost all homeowners.

If you have any other questions, ask away in the comments below, email me, or just stop me next time you see me. I LOVE talking about solar.

For more information about installing solar panels in your home, here is a link to view all the posts in my Going Solar Series.

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